It’s not the chase, it’s the intermittent reinforcement.

I briefly mentioned (in my exasperated rant about yet anther ghosting) that I have once again entered the dark and mysteriously alluring world of online dating, this time with an altered approach. For one I’m on a different site than last time (no more bottom feeders at POF for this girl…I’ve moved on to the (still free) illustrious pool of somewhat eligible bachelors matched to me via the very loose algorithms of OK Cupid.). And for two, I’m more interested in and open to an actual relationship this go round. Shocking, I know. It kind of snuck up on me too but I’ve realized I feel sort of…maybe..almost ready for a regular other person in my life. Whatever that means.

However, just because that’s what I think I  want right now does not mean it’s what I’ve gotten. While there does seem to be more candidates on this site, the dates I’ve been on have not been so different. There’s been the FriendZone guy (decent, easy to get along with, interesting but no chemistry), the boring guy (super available, not a lot going on in his life, nice but…nice), and, the one that seems to click, the Ghoster.

It’s the last one that gets me every time.

He’s fun, interesting, and makes me laugh, even gets my sense of humor. He meshes. Usually there’s something that makes me hesitant at first but a  few dates in and I start thinking “This has potential.” And then it happens. As soon as I start leaning towards wanting him around and feeling optimistic, he “Ghosts”. Dude just drops off the face of the earth never to be heard from again. I’ve experienced this a few times. And every time I’m infuriated.

But then it happens again.

Sometimes there are signs. He texts a little less or seems less engaged. Little things like that. I should be able to recognize the warning signs by now. And I sort of do. The problem is the warning signs make me want the dude more… I thought I just really liked the chase (in a lot of ways I am more like a stereotypical guy than girl. Seriously, don’t buy me flowers…give me beer and a burger and I’m a happy camper.) But then one day, in a somewhat frustrating but still rewarding texting situation with a friend, a light bulb dinged in my head saying:

“Intermittent reinforcement”!

See, this guy and I have a mostly texting based friendship. Occasionally we’ll talk about meeting up for a random adventure. And it has actually happened. Twice. In three years. Sometimes, okay maybe more than sometimes, I’ll randomly text him and he won’t respond. But then sometimes he does. Once in a while he’ll even text me out of the blue. I’m always super excited and kind of happy about it. This pattern has gone on for a while now, over a year (I’m almost embarrassed to admit). Little spurts of fun attention with spans of mostly being ignored or getting short answers in between.

Intermittent reinforcement.

I’ve taken a couple psychology classes (Or I’ve taken a psychology class a couple of times. Whatever. Basically the same thing.) and I remember B.F. Skinner and his rats.

Skinner, an early behavioral psychologist, studied rats and their response to reward based stimulus. He talked about operant conditioning and stuff. (Here’s the Wikipedia page to prove it.) One of the things that this Skinner dude found, way back before the middle of the 20th century, was that intermittent reinforcement was way more effective than continuous reinforcement. Meaning when we consistently get a positive (or negative) result from our actions it isn’t as exciting and, well, rewarding as when we only get that same result once in a while. We thrive off the unpredictability of the prize, it makes us crazy for more and drives us to increase the behavior for even just the chance of getting the reward.

In rat studies this looks like the rat getting a food prize every time it pulls the right lever versus only some of the time. The rat who only gets a prize some of the time will pull that damn lever over and over and over again. Think gambling and slot machines here. It’s exponentially more exciting and rewarding because we’re surprised when we get the reward and addicted to the possibility of getting a reward next time when we don’t. It’s a very effective training tool.

So what do rats and reinforcement have to do with dating?

Everything! Getting a response or attention from a person only some of the time instead of every time we try makes us want to try to get that person’s attention even more. Anyone who had done any online dating can probably give antedotal evidence of this. 

So I realized that I was engaged in a pattern of intermittent reinforcement with Fickle Texting guy. The fact that he didn’t respond every time, or even regularly, made me want interaction with him even more. When he did actually respond and interact it was like all the cherries lined up on the slot machine. Excitement and win ! When there was no response it was annoying and frustrating but I was still drawn to texting him again at random. Because he might respond. The possibulity was there. As soon as I recognized this dynamic with Fickle Texting Guy (I’m slow sometimes but eventually I get it.) I started to notice it other places in my life too, specifically in some of my past dating experiences.

Heck, I’ve been on the receiving AND the giving end of intermittent reinforcement.

I think we all have and that’s not necessarily unhealthy. At the beginning, in moderation, it’s part of what builds attraction. But, and this is a big butt, it can very easily become unhealthy and even feed into abusive relationship dynamics. Continued intermittent reinforcement basically gives one person control of the interaction pace and lends itself to a craving in the other person that goes largely unsatisfied. Again, think gambling addiction here. It’s the same thing.

SO now that I’m aware of this thing, what do I do with this it? 

Do I try to “hook” a guy using intermittent reinforcement? It does sound like a fun social experiment. But what kind of a relationship dynamic would that foster? And what kind of guy would I catch with that?

Seeking out guys who don’t engage in imtermittent reinforcement seems like a better idea. I mean, I’ve already proven to be good at finding the guy who is going to run away, probably after the next shiny thing. Identifying patterns of intermittent reinforcement early could be a good way to weed out the Ghosters before the disappearing act begins. This is something I’m going to mull over and keep in mind as I message new guys online and continue to try and find one who will not only stick around, but who I also actually want around. 

As for the guy who only responds to texts sometimes, it’s been about a month since I’ve restarted the intermittent reinforcement cycle and I’m not all that interested in doing so. Maybe knowing really is half the battle.

 

 

The Wheels are Spinning

It was one of those days: I couldn’t get anything done. The list of things I should have been doing was a mile and a half long (about half the distance I should have run) but I just couldn’t. My mind was all over the place yet going nowhere, like a car stuck in the snow spinning it’s tires. There’s motion but no moving. I had time and pretty much wasted it. I’m not even sure what happened. I did shovel snow for forty-five minutes, clean out the corners of my computer room, and …something else. I swear there was at least one other thing I accomplished between 10 am and 3 pm when I was home alone. Maybe not though. Time slipped right by while I putzed around feeling mildly anxious about the multitude of things I was not getting done. I tried a to-do list, a “What I need to accomplish” list. That usually helps. Not today. It was too vague. “Study Immunology” and “clean up” were not enough to direct my wandering mind and so instead I basically did nothing. Of course now I’m kicking myself over such a wasted day (though obviously still not studying).

In so many ways life is about balance. I’m fairly certain I’ve written about that at least once or twice. Balance. Physical balance is something I’m not stellar at. Graceful I am not! But  I’d like to think I’m not too shabby at other forms of balance. As a parent I feel I manage a pretty effective good cop/bad cop balance even when I have to play both roles myself.

good-cop-bad-cop-lego-movie

But lately there’s been a disruption of balances, a disturbance in the force if you will…

disturbance in the force

 

Specifically, the work/play balance in my life is off.

On a day to day actions (all the small stuff, the ones they say are really the big stuff) front there has not been as much work getting done as should be. That’s not to say I’m sitting around doing nothing (like I did today) all the time. There’s no eating chocolates and watching soap operas, rather just a lack of keeping the regular day to day get-shit-done pace that my life requires. I need to be productive and I just haven’t been. Conversely it seems like it’s been all work and no play on the bigger, broader scale. I’ve worked at least two days (nights really) of the past five, maybe six, weekends. Much of the weekend down time I have has been spent accommodating my four older kids’ healthy social lives or heckling them about homework. It’s nearing the end of the term for my two high school boys and neither of them is keeping up on their work like they should which means extra time and energy on my part trying to keep them on track to pass all their classes. Trying!! Ugh. There’s no break in sight just work piled on work like the layers and layers of garbage heaped on top of one another in a landfill all adding up until it gets covered with a little bit of topsoil and snow and called a ski hill. Except skiing would mean something fun is going on here. It’s not. That needs to be fixed. It’s been building for a while but now it’s at the point of complete unignorability. When small, slightly self-destructive things start occurring in an effort to remedy the problem it is officially time to address it. I’m pretty sure my unfocused brain is a self-sabotaging way of trying to force myself to find some fun. It’s not working.

So what does work?

How does one find fun when life demands so much work and effort on a regular, constant basis?

I like to play. I have a well developed sense of fun, curiosity, and general wonder. I think that’s what being childlike means and is a big part of finding that elusive goal we call happiness. Wonder, curiosity, and fun…they’re important. The little stuff adds up and becomes the big stuff. But when it all feels like work and tedium and obligation, what then? Something has to change otherwise everything stays the same (I think that’s a variation of some quotation of a famous and/or wise person). And things will change. One of the few constants of life is change. Over the next two months there is potential for big change in my life. I’m (we’re?) still waiting on the out come of the court proceedings that wrapped up just over a month ago. My parenting time schedule could change drastically. Or not. In just about six weeks this semester will be done. Another one in the books, almost the last. And then what? There’s no spring/summer classes for me to take this year. My daily and weekly schedule will suddenly be different. Maybe there will be free time (ha! wouldn’t that be something?) But then what would I do with free time? I can find adventure (or trouble depending on how you look at it) but doing so alone gets old after a bit. I need someone to play with. How does one find that as an adult? Who has time for that in their thirties? I have friends, really I do, but the vast majority of them are married and probably have young babies. That or they’re in nursing school and have classes every evening of the week. This is why I originally thought trying online dating was a good idea. Turns out when you tell people you just want someone to play with they think you’re looking for cheap, meaningless sex. No! That would be easier to find but I want someone to run around with (maybe literally) and find some adventure. Adventure in the every day, that’s what I want! Connection and a kindred spirit. Maybe there would be some sex involved but that’s not the end goal. Not at all. That’s not as obvious as I thought it was. My bad.

adventure is out there
Being a single parent is a lonely job and a black hole of demands for more. More time, more money, more attention, more, more, more. There’s never enough of you. I’m Humpty Dumpty post wall fall, pieces scattered everywhere. That’s okay, I’ve learned to function that way. It’s my life and I do love the life I have. It would be nice to fill a couple cracks though. The loneliness crack and the fun/adventure crack…to name a couple. I’ve had friends comment that they’re “basically single parents” because they feel like they handle all the household management and parenting responsibilities. Hell, I’ve said that before back when I was a naive young wife…        bit please

Yeah, it’s totally not the same. For my friends’ sakes I hope they remain unenlightened though.

So how does one find fun, adventure, and a person to share it with (on a very limited budget with next to no free time)? (one who doesn’t want to be around you 24/7 AND doesn’t just want to sleep with you and run…it’s a surprisingly delicate balance.) That’s the million dollar question. Obviously I don’t know the answer. If I did I’d be the richest person on the planet because isn’t this something everyone is seeking?

I hate not knowing the answer but every once in a while there’s a problem you just can’t solve no matter how hard you try. You get in this downward spiral of thinking and overthinking until you’re not even sure of what you do and do not know anymore and your head is a spinning mess. When that happens it’s best to walk away and come back to it later. In the mean time I’ll attempt to re-calibrate, restore the balance in some small ways while trying to stay focused and get shit done…just until the end of April.

Eyes on the prize…C’s get degrees but A’s are better…Must.Get.Shit.Done!!!

go study

 

5 Ways to Survive Valentine’s Day Alone

There’s not much I consider myself an expert at but being alone on Valentine’s Day is something I’ve gotten pretty damn good at these past few years. I did spent some Valentine’s Days married and probably before that dating but for the past three years I’ve navigated this tricky faux holiday totally unconnected whether I like it or not. And in all honesty I really am okay with it. I do find it’s best to be prepared for things like Valentine’s Day though because sometimes weird emotions sneak up on a person, those ninja bastards!

 

1. Be Your Own Best Friend..

Cliche, I know, but if no one else is going to treat you then, by all means…   treatyoself_main01.jpg

Self care is important (and something I’m not very good at sometimes). If you’re not going to do good for yourself once in a while what’s the point? Pick something you really want to do and DO IT! Go for a run, listen to some good music, see a movie, go to a museum, heck, if you like flowers buy yourself some fucking flowers. Self care is self love in action which is an offshoot of self acceptance. Self love, people, it’s a good thing.

If you have kids make them do something nice for you. Kids are naturally selfish little assholes, it’s our job as parents to teach them to be kind, caring, considerate individuals. Do you want your sons and daughters to know how to behave in their future relationships? It starts with you teaching them now. This is something I work on with my kids every Mother’s Day and birthday…my oldest three are teenagers and it’s still a work in progress. One of these days I’ll get breakfast in bed without having to wake those little buggers up to make it.

2. Be kind to strangers..

Maybe the media has the theme from Lion King pounding in your brain and stupid jewelry commercial “romance” (Blech!) burned into the backs of your eyeballs and maybe it’s got you feeling like a dark cloud is hovering above you this second week of February.

pooh_raincloud_d7e1e7ff.jpeg

The best..or one…way to combat this is to step out of your own self and look for opportunities to help a stranger. While you could spend the day feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, it might be just as effective to carry someone’s groceries or help a neighbor or something. I hear that kind of thing makes a person feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Isn’t that the point of Valentine’s Day? I’ll give you a hint: it is. The original St. Valentine earned the infamy of this day of love by anonymously helping people in need.

3. Escape!

If you’re anything like me a vacation is basically a liger…   liger

it sound possible but is completely fictional. Even so I’m a big fan of escapism. It’s like avoidance but in fancier clothes! My favorite forms of escapism are a good book, a new project (usually sewing or crocheting), or a nice long Netflix binge…think Netflix and Chill without the chill (or maybe as a solo chill).

4. Find a token kid or old person.

This is along the same lines as number 2 above but ever so slightly different because you’re not doing this altruistically, you’re looking for some good old fashioned self serving happiness. Kids tend to have a contagious level of wonder and excitement especially on “holidays”…and when you give them sugar so bring some of those little candy hearts or something. Maybe you have some nieces or nephews you could babysit. This is a double win because you’ll get some kid fun and your sibling will totally owe you one.

little miss sunshine

This may not be as funny to you if you didn’t see the movie Little Miss Sunshine but it made me smile.

The flip side of that coin is the elderly: They’ve lived longer and seen different things. Their world view is (probably) completely different than yours. Spending your Valentine’s Day with an older relative, neighbor, or even stranger talking with and listening to them might give you a new perspective on your own sad   lonely  solitary state of life. And like #2 adding value to someone else’s life by sharing your time with them will make you feel valuable which lends itself to inner peace and happiness.

5. Or don’t..

A good friend once told me that you actually need to feel the feels you’re having that moment. Again, this is something I’m kind of terrible at. Emotional suppression is a fine tuned art that I’ve mastered through years and years of practice, terribly unhealthy practice. When you go through any divorce and especially an unfriendly one there are Emotions…lots and lots of ugly emotions. They suck. They just do. But sometimes you just need to embrace the suckiness and your crappy feelings. Feel the feelings you have, wallow in the moment…   funny feelings

Velentine’s Day is not unlike this. If you feel like being sad and pathetic alone then do just that. Maybe don’t make any decisions while doing so though and don’t forget to pick yourself up and carry on come Monday. Because Valentine’s Day is just that, one day whether it’s a good one or not. Make it whatever you want it to be.

 

 

Changes Needed…or Not

Lately I’ve been feeling edgy and restless. Bored. I hate bored!

BC bored

I’m pretty sure this particular brand of boredom is really avoidance in disguise. True there hasn’t been any New and Exciting in my life for what seems like a while now but I’m more than busy enough not to be bored. My life is challenging and engaging. Boredom has no excuse to be here!

Besides my regular level of crazy busy there are a few things that are on the cusp of changing in my life…maybe big changing. Which is why this boredom is more like that jittery feeling you get at the starting line of a race right before the gun goes off. You know you’re about to go. You’ve worked for this, trained, prepped, warmed up and now you’re just standing around waiting. All that energy ready to be released; the rock at the top of the hill just waiting for that bit of force to tip it over the edge. Potential energy. Energy wasted, well, stored in the sitting. Except the gun is not about to go off right now. I’ve got months of preparation before taking those big steps (applying for dental school for one), months of work. I need to put my nose to the grindstone so to speak and get shit done. Knowing that makes me want to balk and shy away. It makes me distracted. It makes me want a change.

In the spirit of said boredom I have recently contemplated rejoining the world of online dating. I almost did it this past weekend. I’ve scrolled through profiles anonymously like the creeper I just might be and even contemplated sending a message or two. (Seriously, there was this professor of neuroscience at a nearby medical school…he wore a bow tie and a sweater with a skull on it. Swoon!). I even updated the pictures on my profile and tweaked the write up just in case I did decide to send anyone a message (ahem, neuroscience guy). But I stopped short of taking the plunge and unhiding my profile. I still don’t have time in my life for dating, even casually, and I really don’t want to make time. I just want the distraction of talking to someone new, the fun of a few first dates, the rush of it all and maybe some company once in a while. But distraction is the last thing I need right now. Must. Focus.

Possibly also in said spirit of said boredom I am thinking about signing up for a half marathon this spring. I’ve only done fall half marathons and both times I realized just weeks before the race that I was stretching myself pretty thin to get those long runs in. I was shorting other things like school to fit in the training I needed. Maybe a spring half would be different. Plus then I’d be in killer shape going into the summer. And, being right at the beginning of the usual “race season” (though one could hardly call my meager few 5 & 10K’s a race season), maybe I’d avoid that post-big race slump. I’d like to find out and the lure of something shiny and new to work towards is tugging on the edge of my mind. It’s playing with my current state of boredom like a cat batting around a marble. I might succumb. I might do it. Or maybe I should just move furniture around, paint a room or something. But bloody hell, I don’t even have time for that!
Still though there’s that itchy, irritating restlessness. That craving for something but I just don’t know what. Maybe if I keep moving I can outrun it. I’m not very fast but I’m persistent. I’ve got endurance on my side. Maybe I can outlast it. The pressure is on, I want to run away. It’s what I do, my favorite brand of self-sabotage. Get close to something big then pull back, find fifty other things to do, excuses as to why I can’t succeed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

In 2014 right around this time my divorce was finalized. Finally. The couple years before and since that have been spent transitioning and adapting. Constantly fluxing into something new and different. Changing. Even though changes can be scary so can not changing. Maybe I feel like I need a change because I’m so used to things changing regularly. There’s no status quot. Maybe that’s what this is: adapting to not changing.

Finding Faith & Chasing Ghosts

I’m sure your blog feed, Facebook wall, and whatever other social media you may look at has been flooded with new year’s resolutions, surely that market is saturated now, so I promise you this is not one of those.

On the last day of 2015 I read a post about choosing a word to use as a theme for the year as an alternative to making a resolution. It was an excellent post but when I read it I thought it sounded a little cheesy for my taste (I love cheese but cheesiness, not so much). The word you choose is supposed to capture the essence of the year or embody a quality that you want your life to have over the year. Or something like that. Then you write the word on a candle and put it by your bed or something. Based on my excessive use of “or something” it’s safe to assume that I’m very broadly paraphrasing here. In the comments of the post it was mentioned that ideally the word should just come to you in a magic cloud of inspiration, maybe on a moonbeam or a ray of light. Again, paraphrasing. It’s a nice concept but you see what I mean about it being a little cheesy right? My typically cynical  skeptical self read all this and scoffed a little. Inspirational theme words, psh.

But then a weird thing happened on New Year’s Day.

I was driving home from the usual type of New Year’s Eve festivities feeling a little wobbly of head when I slid around on the freeway just a tiny bit. It was a warning slide; I heeded and drove like a near sighted grandma the rest of the way home. I was cautious, maybe excessively so. Generally speaking I’m not sure I can be considered a cautious person, but when it comes to driving on bad roads my motto is Slow and steady keeps you safe. Or Go around me, you fucking asshole, there are three lanes here! As I was crawling (okay, going between 50 and 65 mph) along the freeway I began to question whether it was actually necessary to be going quite that slow. Maybe I truly was being ridiculously overly cautious, maybe a little paranoid. I couldn’t really tell though and wasn’t sure I wanted to take a chance and go faster. I seriously doubted my ability to judge the state of the roads in that moment. And that right there is how I’ve felt about everything the past few months: I have seriously doubted my ability to… I don’t even know…
everything.

Somehow in the last half of 2015 I lost my faith. I’m not talking about religious faith or faith in a belief system (though that has been seriously faltering as well), I’m talking about something that’s kind of like confidence but runs a little deeper. Something that supports the foundation and this past year it’s gotten a little cracked. I saw it during the microbiology class that was so tough for me this past semester. It really should not have been that bad but even when I knew the answers and had a grasp of the material, albeit a tenuous one most the time, I chose the wrong answers on tests. Over and over. I didn’t trust myself and because of that ignored my instincts. I had no faith in my intelligence, no confidence in my knowledge. I have doubted myself, not just academically this year but across the board. I’m sure this has something to do with being back in court with the ex husband. It’s not easy to sit quietly and listen to your parenting abilities and your personal integrity be attack. Even knowing the bombardment is one built on exaggerations, faulty perception, and flat out lies doesn’t help in the moment. That combined with my past dealings with the family court system leave me feeling scared. The most important situation in my life is being evaluated, so much is at stake, and it’s almost completely out of my hands. I’m probably doing something to fuck up the small part that’s not. My lack of organization, my lack of foresight, or something else I’m missing or just not doing will probably bite me in the ass and cost me more than I even care to think about losing. Not only do I have no faith in myself but my faith in the system is totally shot. That belief that everything will work out one way or another and that we’ll all be okay is gone. I need to find a way to restore some semblance of that. I need to be able to trust that things will work out, that people are okay, that the system can and does work, that I am competent and capable of handling what’s being thrown my way (or what I’m choosing to pile on top of that). You can’t have trust without faith so my Not Resolution this year, my word for the year, is faith…find faith.

When I was standing here a year ago looking back I was able to say that 2014 had been monumental. As I look back at 2015 I’m not really sure what to think. In some ways all I did was maintain this year and often barely even that. No huge changes, just day to day. Work, kids, school, and a feeble attempt at dating (that ended in me realizing that I just shouldn’t actively try to date right now). That’s it. It’s tempting to regard the year with disappointment but I know that’s not entirely fair to myself because even in the maintaining there is growth. It’s not leaps and bounds growth but slow, steady development, the kind where you maybe don’t realize is happening at the time but when you glance back to where you were you can see how far you’ve come. Outwardly my life doesn’t look much different than it did a year ago (other than the court bullshit) but through the process of navigating my day to day I’ve identified some of the ghosts at the back of my closet (to employ the phrasing of The Mountain Goats). Now it’s time to eradicate them, to burn the fucking house down (so to speak),  to forgive some of the difficult things about myself and move on.

Okay, I guess this was a resolution post after all. You’re just going to have to deal with that. Next time I’ll  write a post about running or making something. It’ll be lighter, more fun…maybe.

Phosphate is my Spirit Ion

…at least when it comes to dating it is.
Let’s be honest here, I don’t really know what people mean when they say something is their Spirit Animal. I’m fairly certain the idea has Native American origins & has to do with identifying an animal that encapsulates the essence of you, your spirit as it were. I guess I could search it up (a term often used in my household that’s a combination of search & look it up) but I’m probably close enough for this particular analogy. If a person can have a spirit animal then why not a spirit ion, especially a chemistry nerd like myself?

I was sitting in biochemistry lecture the other day, the professor was introducing the topic of bioenergetics, when phosphate came up.

Obviously this isn’t the first time I’ve learned about phosphate in a chemistry class but when the professor said “Phosphate is such a good leaving group because it’s so stable on its own it would just rather be unattached”, I felt like I could really relate to phosphate. While you can and do attach yourself, knowing you have the capacity to be stable alone makes you more willing and able to leave when it’s time.
See, phosphate has this cool ability to have “resonant structures” that allow it to be stable when it’s a free ion (unattached to another molecule) even though it has a charge. The way oxygen and phosphorous bind makes phosphate able to disperse the charge of the lone pair of electrons (which usually make an ion more reactive) evenly over the space of the entire molecule. This makes it an excellent leaving group. Because when you know you have the capacity to be stable on your own, to be okay when you’re unattached, you’re more likely to leave.

I’ve always been an independent person. When I was younger I just wanted to be left alone to do my own thing and find whatever fun (or trouble….sometimes they’re the same thing) I could. I could and would take care of myself so don’t try to sell me this Disney princess find your one true love to live happily ever after bullshit. If they had voted for a Least Likely to get Married title in high school I’m pretty sure I would’ve won that. Having graduated from a Catholic high school, however, and they did not. Missed opportunity right there.
But then I got married ….when I was twenty. Getting pregnant at eighteen was a game changer. It didn’t alter my level of independence but my life was thrown into this crazy flux and I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself. So I got married; I thought it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t, it was a mess.

Fast forward a few years (or a decade & a half) and here I am, thirty-five, divorced, trying to date. It’s been eye opening. It’s been bizarre. It’s been fun too though. And I’ve learned a whole lot about myself. At first I was very sure I wasn’t ready for anything serious; I just wanted to see what’s out there & get the hang of things. As I approached the one year mark of dating (albeit on & off) I thought it would be nice to have A Person, to actually seek a regular dating relationship. More recently I’ve realized that that doesn’t really work for me at this juncture.
Don’t get me wrong, I do support the idea of monogamous relationships in general. But I see now that there is just not space in my life for such a thing. There’s not enough free time, not enough emotional space, and just not enough energy at the end of the day to think about another person like that and invest in building a relationship. I simply do not have time to be attached right now and I’m okay with that. If I could magically jump into a relationship at the point where things are established and comfortable it might be a different story. That’s not how it works though and I’m not about to sacrifice time with my kids or the enrrgy I need to devote to succeeding in school to try and make a budding relationship work. That’s not fair to me or the potential other person. Besides that, I know I am stable on my own and I’ll be fine without that. It makes me a good leaving group. Much like phosphate, I’ll be okay unattached. It’s energetically preferred at this time.

Phosphate is also very important in metabolic processes. Something else I can relate to.

Landmines Everywhere

Is that your leg over there on the other side if the room?

You stepped in something, didn’t even see it coming but it all just blew up. Debris everywhere.
On the surface it was a harmless (though slightly rude) comment about the state of my tub. You said “Looks like your shower could use a little bleach.” It caught me off guard; I didn’t realize right away that you had hit a trigger.
Oh but you did! Boy did you ever.

By the time you left a few hours later I was feeling slightly off about this whole thing but couldn’t pinpoint why. I thought it was because we’d seen each other three times in barely over a week. That’s kind of a lot for me, maybe I just needed some space. The next morning though I was restless, edgy & anxious. I went for a run, trying to avoid the panic that was setting in. I ran until I was out of time but it was my fastest five miles maybe ever. It’s good to know I can still out run the demons. I hadn’t realized they were still giving chase; they’ve been quiet for some time now.
It was something but not quite enough. After work I didn’t go home. I didn’t want to be alone in my head. It was still a little messy in there. Not quite okay, feeling a little off, but I couldn’t put my finger on the source of this sudden angst. So I hit the Self-destruct button. Hard. Drinks. Flirting with strangers. 3 am drunk texts to the wrong person and all that implies. It wasn’t smart. Sometimes I’m not smart. I panicked. After a slap on the ass and a “thanks for the good time..no,no don’t get up I’ll just see myself out” I walked home, tired but at least able to breath.

Why? Did I just need to prove to myself that I wasn’t cornered? Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks, like Wylie Coyote’s anvil falling from the sky: that comment, the one about the grime in my bathtub, it was all a little too familiar. You said That needs to be cleaned (and maybe it does). It might have been a simple observation but I heard “You’re not enough. You need to be better.” the same way I’d heard it for years back in another life. In the subtle digs and little bits of criticism slipped in an otherwise innocent conversation, in the undermining of everything positive that had transpired, in the blatant accusations that I was always doing something wrong and falling short just by being who I am because, well, it was never enough.

I knew there would be some murky waters and hidden dangers getting back into this whole dating with the prospect of a relationship thing. I thought I was ready for that. I’d done some scouting and prepared myself, stayed vigilant but still this one caught me off guard. Even as the body parts were flying as the explosion ripped through the ambiance I couldn’t tell what it was. Now, though, that one’s been found. It’s marked and identified. Forewarned is forearmed.

He Said Whaaaa???

This past dip in the pond of online dating, though it was a very short one, yielded some of my most interesting interactions of my online dating expedition thus far. There’s the good, the bad, and the funny and more than once I found myself shaking my head thinking “Did he really  just say that?” Spoiler alert:Yes he did.

Now there's a pick-up line that would actually work on me!

Now there’s a pick-up line that would actually work on me!

The Good Gone Bad

“You and I are probably apples and oranges but you’re adorable.”

Good opening line, right? Unfortunately after a little surface level banter he busted out this line: “Some friendly advice, try not to be so complicated. Guys don’t like that shit.” Ummm, what? I’m not even sure where this idea that I’m complicated came from…we hadn’t even started to get into the actual nitty gritty of my life. The five kids and crazy schedule with very little free time, you know, that stuff. Jeez! And I’m pretty sure the goal is to find a guy who likes me, not to change to get guys to like me. I told him as much.

You know how they say people will tell you who they really are so you should believe them? So true! After that this dude told me he could be sarcastic and that he had a nice way of insulting people to their faces and they’d just laugh it off (paraphrasing here). Is that supposed to be appealaing to me? He mixed lines like that in with things like “You really are very cute.” and “So how is someone like you still single?” (to which I responded: because I don’t date assholes.) Then after faux apologizing, the dude unloads this crazy story about how he had been an Olympic swimmer but got burned out on the training, he was with this woman who’s seven years younger than him for a long time and she suddenly told him she didn’t love him anymore and up & left, that his dad had died, and he’d been single for five months now because no one he had dated was “right”.

News flash, buddy, No one is going to be “right” until YOU are right. Take some time to get over that girl…and yourself. You think you can insult me and I won’t notice because you say something nice two sentences later?

Nope. I’ve already had that relationship and , Spoiler, it ended in divorce.

This one also had a great opener. “You are absolutely gorgeous. If you’re half as kind, as you are pretty, I’d probably end up being crazy about you. Are you attracted to scruffy musician types?”

It didn’t get too bad and he seemed pretty decent. We actually exchanged phone numbers and were talking about meeting but (surprise) our schedules weren’t meshing that week due to my kids’ spring break. We texted a little though and at one point, when I was driving back from Ohio, he made the comment that he would just be sitting home alone watching tv when I drove by. *hint hint*

Wanna know why he would just be sitting home watching tv? Because his kids would be in bed sleeping. Does he not realize that I could be a crazy psycho killer or worse, a stage 5 clinger or something?!?

And this one, this one just made me say “What is wrong with you people???” Like the others it started out okay: “I like your name. Well you may not believe this, but I also like Pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…and Batman. I like to boat and fish and be outdoors in the sun. I work at an industrial gas plant as a foreman. I love trying new beers…and retrying old ones! 🙂 I greatly dislike flying in planes but I will if I have to. Your turn for now!”

This wasn’t his opening message. He lead with the classic  lame “Tell me more about yourself.” To which I responded “I have more personal information in my profile than you do, why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

It lead to a few more messages one of which ended with this: “The picture of you in the short skirt and high boots kind of gets me going. 😉 I’m not a perv….just have a high drive for it.” Umm, okay. I didn’t really acknowledge that comment but responded to the rest of what he had said. Then there was this at the end of his next message: “So, I hope this isn’t poorly received, but how would one get to see more pictures like the short skirt picture? Or find out what’s under there? ;)”

A vagina. What do you expect to be under my skirt? And, no, you can’t see it. Adios.

Then there was the guy I talked to for over  a week. He seemed okay and, honestly, I wasn’t super interested but was giving him a one or two meeting chance as part of my “try something different” approach to dating. I was a little concerned because he lived about an hour away (sounds familiar right?). I expressed this concern to him but it did not dampen his enthusiasm. He assured me that he liked driving and would gladly come out my way regularly if I wanted.

After some consistent back and forth texting, mostly initiated by him…on an almost daily basis, (which had me wary of a certain unwarranted level of attachment on his end) we were making plans to meet the next day. And then this: “I should also tell you, I won’t have a car for like two more weeks, mine was totalled by a drunk driver and I still have a few weeks of saving to do before I buy my new one.” He went on to apologize for not saying something sooner and all that. Blah, blah, blah.

“So you wouldn’t be able to meet somewhere tomorrow?” I responded. “If it was around here I would. I really don’t have anyone to borrow a vehicle from.” Followed by more apologizing and talking about how he really does want to meet me… So….you think I’m going to drive over an hour to an area of the state that I’m totally unfamiliar with for a first meeting with a guy I found online??? That sounds like the beginning of a horror movie. No thank you! I haven’t heard from him since and it’s been four weeks. It’s okay though, I get the feeling I dodged a bullet on that one. There were a few signs of more clingyness than I can handle.

The Straight Up Bad

I know I mentioned in a post early in my online dating experience about some of the…straightforward messages I’ve received so I won’t go into those type of messages that I do occasionally get but there’s another type of bad that’s been creeping up…The You Owe It To Me guy. If you’ve online dated before you probably know what I’m talking about. The guy who messages you, most likely says nothing except “Hi” or ” how r u today”. You check out his profile and maybe don’t see anything that interests you or even see something that is a major red flag ( or something like this: “if you want to know anything about me ask even though i am sure alot of you ladies think you are better then me and everyone else i have to try this sorry if i am being too honest but thats how i am i speak my mind if you dont like it ohh well get over it. It does not matter what a person looks like really as long as they have a good heart and look for the beauty within a person.”)

So you ignore the message. Then he comes back with something along the lines of “Oh so you think ur to good to talk to me”…Umm, nope. But just because you took all of one second to message me a few words does not mean I am obliged to respond and now I really don’t want to talk to you…let alone entertain the idea of meeting you. Does this approach actually work for anyone???

The Ood  Odd

One guy I was talking to last week seemed pretty normal. He gave me his phone number and we started texting back and forth a bit, mostly about food since we both happened to be preparing dinner at the time. I mentioned I was cooking for my kids. Usually I throw out that I have kids (it is on my profile too but I don’t have pictures of them or mention them in my write up at all so I think people forget) He took the bait and asked “How old are your little ones?” Umm, yeah, some of them are not so little. I told him as much and that there are five of them…there was a notable pause, an increase in response time before he came back with “How many dads?” That one caught me by surprise, I’ve never been asked that but it’s a valid question. At this point I thought for sure he was about to run away. It’s okay, it happens. But then it didn’t…

We talked for a few more days, food came up a lot. That first evening he mentioned that he loves milk but buys 1/2% even though 2% is his favorite…”Less fat obviously.” Then he mentioned that he’s “trying to avoid bread…even tho i luv it” and later that he’s going on a high protein diet. When he commented “i luv chz (cheese). Thinking about giving it up tho.” I just had to laugh. Seriously, from his pictures he looks like a pretty skinny guy too. I just don’t understand. I told him no one should give up cheese…ever!

Shortly after that comment, though I don’t think it was related, he asked if I had a picture I could send him. Crap! I understand wanting to see that the person you’re talking to is who they say they are and that a lot of people use misleading photos on dating websites BUT my phone won’t send picture messages right now. Lame, very lame, I know. And I said as much to him. He seemed a bit miffed by this saying “That is lame…lol…who the hell cant send pics in 2015??? Ha.”  Welll, me. That’s who. I explained how I had just switched phones and a whole bit about SIM cards and stuff. The more I explained the weirder it sounded. Double crap! I thought this was it for this guy…he is surely going to run away now. But he didn’t.

The next day he texted & asked how I was…and what I was making for dinner. I had to chuckle. Isn’t there some saying about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach? Maybe there’s some truth to that. (I’m fairly certain being able to cook doesn’t hurt with guys…ever). Admittedly this one was a little odd with his food issues but I found it amusing, almost charming. My friend pointed out that he had “fat kid food issues”. Oh, now it made sense. Okay. I can deal with that.  In fact, this guy’s oddness made me more curious to meet him. I really wanted to see how it translated in person. He commented that “we seem to like similar food. I think ud like arabic food…maybe we should try it together sometime. Theres a restaurant near my condo thats good.”  I expressed an interest but there was no asking about an actual time that would work or attempt to make plans quite yet. It was a promising sign though.

And then he upped the oddness ante. “Random question” he asked “what size shoe do u wear?…im assuming small since ur 5’2” Yup, that’s random. Apparently he’s “attracted to small feet”. I told him my shoe size (which is not actually very small). Curiouser and curiouser.

I think the feet did it though. We chatted a little more that evening but that was the last day I heard from him. I texted a few days later and got no response. After all that, the five kids & not being able to send pics, it seems it was my big feet that finally killed my chances with this one. Not going to lie, I was slightly disappointed. I’ve never met anyone with food issues AND a foot fetish. Plus he had a very normal nine to five, weekends off work schedule. Odd AND available. Huh, too bad.

no Ood or drink

The Unavailability Clause

About a month ago I wrote a post about dating. Really, there had not been much dating going on here since January when This Guy dropped off the face of the earth (which was sort of what I was writing about then), but I had (and have) been thinking a lot about dating.

It’s almost the same thing, right? (Okay, it’s not quite the same. I know this. )

I haven’t just been thinking about dating like “Gee, I’d like to do more of that sometime soon”, I’ve been self analyzing my dating tendencies and my (albeit limited) past dating successes and failures. While there hasn’t been much of either, there is something to be learned from the experiences I’ve had. One thing I’ve noticed, as I mentioned before, is that there are certain similarities in the men I’ve gone out with. This is no surprise BUT I’m not talking about things like having dark hair and at least borderline nerdy interests. I’m talking more about similar behavioral things and interpersonal dynamics that have emerged…My pattern.

Everyone has a pattern but you’re more likely to notice other people’s patterns than your own. For example, this single friend of a friend, I look at (what I know of) her dating habits and the guys she dates. It seems like she does the same thing over and over. And, guess what, she gets the same results…over and over. She chooses these alpha male types, police officers or military guys, that type. They’re manly men with strong protective instincts who like to be in charge. This is her type, her pattern. Even though it doesn’t really go the way she wants it to she picks the same guy over and over again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This girl, she’s not unique. It’s a human thing. So when she would come up in conversation and some of her dating woes were mentioned I began to wonder Do I have a pattern? I definitely don’t want to repeat the relationship dynamic of my marriage. Not at all! And I’ve only just begun dating.  So far the guys I’ve chosen to date varied quite a bit in professions and personal interests and a lot of things like that but the almost-relationships that I’ve had (all two of them) followed the same pattern. Super interested, fun back and forth texting or messaging, meet, go on a few fun dates & getting to know each other, start liking, then…fade out. Or just straight up drop off into the abyss. Seriously, this has happened a few times now. So what was the similarity? What’s my pattern? Clearly you can’t make or discern a pattern with two data points so I can’t just include the guys I’ve actually been on dates with but when you look at Almost guys or Interest guys the pattern becomes clear…

My type, my repeating folly, is the unavailable asshole. I was originally going to use that as the title of this post buuut my previous post had asshole in the title too and I didn’t want to overdue it. I probably use the term asshole more liberally than your average girl (or guy). Not that I run around assholing all the time, it’s just that I really do think everyone has at least a little bit of asshole in them, some more than others. Way more. Or in different ways. So I pretty much call almost everyone and asshole but in a general way, not an angry, trying-to-insult-them way.

Apparently, based on past male interactions of interest, I like a particular brand of asshole. It’s not something I was really even aware of until recently when I was talking to my co-blogger. She asked about a guy I was involved with awhile back, as I was describing his personality, she started laughing. She said that I just described the guy I was currently having a flirtation with. That gave me pause. My perceptive friend, co-worker, and co-blogger had hinted at such a thing but I didn’t recognize it until that moment.

Turns out I like assholes….nice ones though. The ones who can be, and always are for a while, overwhelmingly nice, especially nice to me even while they’re being assholes to the other people in their lives. Funny, sarcastic, assholes. The type that will tell you straight off and with a charming smile that they are an asshole. If they have some baggage that makes them somewhat unavailable it’s a bonus. A double whammy of attraction for me. (hence my pattern guy being the Unavailable Asshole) One guy, the disappearing concert ticket guy, told me he was probably too nice for me…turns out not so much. But he read me right; I know I can be a jerk so having someone who gives it back to me a bit might be a good thing. It’s the whole Scarlett O’Hara principle: Like Marries like. Actually her father said it first. and she didn’t believe him but over the course of the story she realizes it’s true. About the same time Scarlett finally figures out that she & Rhett are alike and that’s why they belong together, he decides he’s done with her. Timing is everything.

At any rate, unavailable assholes, it’s a thing.

The unavailability clause, now that has been a little more apparent. There’s the emotionally unavailable guy with baggage that prevents him from really investing and the logistically unavailable guy…or sometimes they’re both. The first guy I went out with more than a couple times (I think it was like five, maybe six altogether) was a bit like me in his level of busyness. His days were packed and his free time was limited. Sounds familiar right? He told me on the first date that he was very into his career, worked a lot, and it had been a problem in past relationships. His work was his main interest, almost his obsession. I can understand that and it was quite an interesting career (he’s a detective and did stuff with data patterns and linking people…it really was pretty cool). And that obsessive level of involvement made him more attractive to me and…well, unavailable. Then there was the younger guy (who it never would’ve worked with anyhow…part of his appeal). We went on two & a half dates and then he dropped off. Turns out he was seeing another girl too and that took a turn for the more serious. I learned this when they were in Splitsville for a bit and he contacted me again. Hey buddy, your asshole is showing!

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to see the appeal of the unavailable. It’s safe and I don’t have to worry about things actually working or getting serious and what I would do with that. I have some pretty strong self-preservation mechanisms, the unavailability clause is just the first layer.

So what now? After realizing this and acknowledging my pattern, what do I do with it? If I keep doing the same thing I will keep getting the same results. If nothing changes, well, nothing changes.

Even though I probably shouldn’t, I got back on an online dating site. I wasn’t really planning on it but then saw someone interesting and unhid my profile. The momentum built from there.  I’m trying to take a different approach this time though and date people I might not normally date. Nice guys. Normal guys. Available guys. So far I’ve been on one date and it was…okay. We had decent conversation but a spark was missing. I’ve been cautioned that that might be the asshole spark and, keeping that in mind, I’m giving it some time to see what happens. A second date and maybe third…well, as soon as we find a time that works for both of us; it’s looking like that might be a challenge but not because of him. Looks like I may be a bit of an unavailable asshole myself.

Everybody’s an Asshole

Please note: This post isn’t aimed at or inspired by any specific individuals or events. It’s just a personal philosophy/life viewpoint kind of things.

It’s true. People don’t like to talk about it but Every. Single. Person. IS. an Asshole. They just are. We can’t help it.

Typically you hear about the goodness of humanity. Every time you turn around there’s another dewy eyed optimist talking about the inherent kindness of people as individuals and as a whole. Random acts of kindness. Paying it forward. These popular ideas emphasize it. Well, I’m here to tell you, if everyone can be good or has good in them then ,by default, everyone can also be “bad” or do mean, big fat jerk  things. And everyone does. Everyone. I’m not exempt, you’re not exempt, and that really awesome person feeding the homeless over there isn’t either. Yes, even Mr. or Ms. Give All My Free Time to charity, the greater good, and helping others is an asshole. Maybe less of one than some other people (or maybe they’re a bigger asshole than most and are compensating),but still, even they are an asshole too.

Around Christmas time, just a few months ago, I was in the drive-through line at Panera. I usually don’t buy food on the go, especially not anything other than McDonald’s or Taco Bell decent stuff but I had a gift card and a breakfast sandwich sounded really good after work. As I pulled up to the window to give the girl my card she told me, in her perky morning person customer service voice, that the customer in front of me had paid for my order. She looked at me all bright eyed and expectant. There was a pregnant pause. Then I put my gift card away and accepted my free food. I know she was waiting for me to “pay it forward” and “keep the chain of kindness going” but, dammit, that’s my gift card and I’m not using it on some asshole who probably makes twice what I do just because someone else paid for my breakfast. Besides, they probably ordered a sandwich and a coffee. I’m not taking that chance…that’s bullshit!

It’s a little thing, but I was definitely an asshole in that situation. Usually my asshole nature shines through on little things but sometimes I go big too. I won’t deny it, I can be an asshole.

I think my son summed it up pretty well in a note he wrote to a classmate who had been giving him a hard time. When the other kid called him a “damn jerk” it was the last straw so he wrote the kid a letter. It went something like this:

Dear So-and-So,You’ve been really mean to me and my friends. Just leave us alone. You’re an ass… But I guess now I’m an ass too.

You see, my then eight-year-old boy got it. The other kid was being an asshole and deserved to have that pointed out but then by calling him an ass he was being an asshole too. Yup, we’re all jerks.

Of course, my son was the jerk who got in trouble when the teacher found the note but he learned an important lesson…If you’re going to cuss out another kid at school, don’t put it in writing.

Another way of saying it, the way my co-blogger usually puts it, everybody is somebodys villain. Maybe that’s a little nicer.

When I meet new people I basically assume right off that they are going to be an asshole on some level, it’s just a question of what level. The question isn’t if just how much and in what way. Are you a giant asshole all the time? That might be a deal breaker and maybe I don’t want to talk to you or be around you if that’s the case. It just depends on if I can live with your asshole qualities…and, of course, if you can live with mine. When I do business with companies and people the possibility (and sometimes probability) that they are trying to rip me off is something I’m very aware of. Maybe that makes me cynical, I’m pretty sure it just means I’m realistic. If you give people the benefit of the doubt you are bound to be disappointed a good percentage of the time. Why not just acknowledge that people are assholes and expect that to be the case? Then when someone is not or is even pleasant, honest, and kind it’s a great surprise. I mean, look, you expected them to be a jerk and they’re not. There are so few good surprises as an adult; being realistic with your expectations creates more opportunity for good surprises.

We all have an inner twelve year old trying to be a selfish jerk all the time. It makes everyone behave like an asshole at least some of the time. That’s okay. Without a little assholeness the good just doesn’t seem as good. It’s all about contrast and perspective.

( And now a bit of shameless self-promotion: If you like this, check out a post I wrote last year about low expectations that’s along the same lines.)